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A-State to Host Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Jan. 15-19


JONESBORO – “Together; We can be the dream” is the theme of a week of activities planned in conjunction with the Northeast Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to Dr. Lonnie Williams, vice chancellor of the Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

Events are planned from Jan. 15-19. The first event, an annual youth program, will be held on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 4 p.m. at Jonesboro High School auditorium. This program will feature local youth performing liturgical dance, poetry, singing and other activities.

For the first year since the onset of the pandemic, the march/parade will take place in person Monday, Jan. 16, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The route will begin at the Lt. Col. Frederick Turner Military Science Building on the A-State campus, travel along the Marion Berry Parkway and Johnson Ave., and conclude at the Fowler Center.

Before the march/parade, a gathering will begin at 9:30 a.m. “Ray Prunty has been selected as this year’s grand marshal recognizing his service to the committee these past 21 years,” said Williams. The marching band from Forrest City High School will be featured at the event.

Following the march/parade, an annual celebration will be held at the Fowler Center at noon. Dr. Don Arnette of DeSoto, Texas, will be the featured speaker with his presentation, “Working together is how the dream becomes reality.” Arnette received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center where he was the first African American male to receive a Ph.D. from the department of cellular molecular biology.

Arnette is a motivational speaker and mentors local youth and professional athletes in the Dallas area, relating to audiences by being transparent about his journey to success. Arnette is the author of the book “I am Supposed to be Here” and will do a book signing after the program.

The Craighead County NAACP will hold its normal monthly meeting on Monday, Jan. 16, at the E. Boone Watson Community Center located at 1005 Logan Ave. During the meeting, new officers will be sworn in.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Alexander Heffner, host of the PBS program “The Open Mind” and co-author of bestselling book “A Documentary History of the United States,” will host a lecture in the Reng Student Union auditorium. The lecture, “Civil Discourse in an Age of Incivility,” will begin at 6 p.m.

This event is sponsored by the School of Media and Journalism, the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Department of Political Science, Department of Communication and the Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

The activities will conclude on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Student Union auditorium where Dr. Charles “Chuck” Barber will be the featured speaker with “Reimagining how we Harmonize Diversity and Meritocracy.”

Barber was recently appointed chief diversity and inclusion officer with the National Science Foundation. Previously, he served as the director of the Department of the Navy’s diversity, equity and inclusion program. He also worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs.

Barber, originally from Bald Knob, has more than two decades of experience in human resources, diversity and inclusion, business transformation and cultural intelligence. This event will be presented by the Office of Research and Technology Transfer in conjunction with the Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

“We, the NEA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee and A-State sponsors, are excited about this outstanding slate of major speakers to celebrate this year’s Dr. King celebration. We are very fortunate to have the caliber of speakers for three major programs addressing key issues surrounding diversity and inclusion and the dream of Dr. King,” said Williams.

For more information on planned activities, interested individuals can reach out Kenisha Ross who serves as the chairperson of the NEA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee at MLKjrday_pr2001@yahoo.com. Williams is the A-State liaison on the committee and can be reached at lonniew@AState.edu.

All events are free and open to the public. The program will be broadcast live by KLEK radio and Facebook live.